Whether it’s astronomical distances, inhospitable climates or extreme terrains that define these remote and hostile lands, there’s one thing they all have in common: they’re on my bucket list. That and the fact that people live there.
It’s highly unlikely I’ll actually make it to many (if any) of these far-flung desolate realms, but I salute the hardcore residents who carve out an existence in the most remote places and communities on Earth.
1. Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland
Ittoqqortoormiit is located on Liverpool Land, a peninsula in eastern Greenland and one of the most remote towns in the country. It was first settled in 1925 by 80 Inuit settlers. Today, the declining population of 452 spend their time hunting whales and polar bears for meat and trading, while presumably also deciding what colour to paint their houses.
2. Kerguelen Islands
This French Overseas Territory in the southern Indian Ocean is also known as the Desolation Islands, which gives you an idea of how remote they are: really remote, that’s how. More than 3,300 km (2,051 miles) away from the nearest populated location makes them one the most isolated places on the planet. The population fluctuates depending on the season: around 45 in the winter rising to around 110 in the summer.
3. Pitcairn Island
The British really don’t know what to do with this island of incestuous sex offenders. With a population of just 56 it is the least populous national jurisdiction in the world. This tropical paradise should be known for its fantastic history of mutiny and colonialism and few would know that Pitcairn was one of the first territories to give women the vote in 1838 (some 80 years before the rest of the UK). Unfortunately, this was all somewhat overshadowed when it won the record for the highest number of sex offenders per capita.
4. Tristan da Cunha
Known as Tristan to the 297 locals, this island is part of the most remote inhabited archipelago in the world, lying 2,000 kilometres (1,243 miles) from nearest inhabited land, Saint Helena – which is another pretty remote island itself. Tristan is also 2,400 kilometres (1,491 miles) from the nearest continental land, South Africa. Most of Tristan’s population lives in the main settlement of Edinburgh of the Seven Seas. What a name!
5. Oymyakon, Russia
This is one of the coldest places on the planet. It has an extreme subarctic climate that on February 6, 1933, dropped to a temperature of −67.7 °C (−90 °F) making it a candidate for the Northern Pole of Cold (coldest place on earth). The 500 people who live there “enjoy” days ranging from 3 hours in December to 21 hours in June thanks to its northerly position. Quite bluntly, this place is brutal. Only a certain type of person can live in a place like this: Russian.
6. Chang Tang, Tibet
Chang Tang is a vast high-altitude plateau stretching 1,600 kilometres (990 miles) across the Tibetan Plateau. The inhospitable land is inhabited by roughly half a million Changpa, but they’re hard to spot. The Changpa are a nomadic people who know all about hardship thanks to the near-Arctic climate in which they they survive and the brutality of the Chinese occupation. When Swedish explorer Sven Hedin crossed Chang Tang he reported not seeing a single person for 81 days. In 2009, the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre named the Tibetan Plateau as the world’s most remote place after compiling a map showing the most and least interconnected places on earth.
7. Barrow (Ukpeagvik), Alaska
Barrow is the northernmost city in the US and is famous for its lengthy polar night (yes, singular). The sun sets in November and doesn’t rise again for approximately two months: perfect for vampires. For decades, the population had been rising until 2010 when it fell for the first time to 4,212, although the latest estimates suggest it’s on rise again. Compared with other places on this list it’s practically a sprawling metropolis.
8. Longyearbyen, Svalbard
This Norwegian town doesn’t have much going for it apart from that it’s the northernmost settlement of any kind with greater than 1,000 permanent residents. It’s a wonder the place is still standing considering the Germans all but destroyed the town during the Second Would War because of its mining heritage. It was named after the coal mining corporation’s owner, John Munro Longyear, and was known for years simply as Longyear City.
9. Mêdog (Motuo) County, China
This was the last county in China to gain road access when in December 2010 the Chinese government announced completion of a highway to Mêdog County. China’s renowned for having the largest population in the world. However, Mêdog only has 12,000 residents across the whole county – a tiny number compared with the rest of the country. Until the highway (and by highway we mean single carriageway that’s open for nine months a year) opened, the only access was by traversing a fairly challenging mountain range.
10. Easter Island, Chile
Oddly, from our small bungalow in Tahiti in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Easter Island doesn’t seem that remote right now. However, 2,000 miles off the Chilean coast, covering just 163.6 km2 (63.2 sq miles) and inhabited by just 5,761 people, Easter Island is about as remote as a population of this size can get. The island’s mythical history and army of Moai statues fascinates the 70,000 odd tourists who visit each year. Maybe, with this in mind, Easter Island doesn’t really belong on a list such as this?
11. Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station
The South Pole is part of the only landmass on Earth where the sun is continuously up for six months and then continuously down for six months. There’s just one day and one night every year, albeit one very long day and one very long night. Not only that, it also gets pretty chilly too as temperatures can drop as low as −73 °C (−100 °F). Being 2,835 metres (9,301 feet) above sea level doesn’t help. It has been continuously occupied since its construction in 1956 – surprising, as it may well be the most remote place on earth.
12. Point Nemo: Oceanic pole of inaccessibility
Okay, so nobody actually lives here. They can’t. Point Nemo is scientifically the absolute middle of nowhere. It is officially one thousand and four hundred miles from anywhere, smack bang in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean. The oceanic pole of inaccessibility is the place in the ocean that is farthest from land and can be found here: 48°52.6′S 123°23.6′W. Its closest (remote) landmasses are:
- Ducie Island (part of Pitcairn Island) to the north
- Motu Nui (part of Easter Island) to the northeast
- Maher Island, Antarctica to the south
- Chatham Island in the west
- Southern Chile in the east
Like I said, the middle of nowhere.
(Additional photography: Dreamstime)
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